Day 18: Everglades National Park to Brunswick, Georgia

We hopped out of bed in semi-darkness pretty happy to be done with the awful night. We drove the thirty-some miles down the park road to the Flamingo Visitors Center. We drove through lots of grassland and arrived to find that there wasn’t much left of the visitors center. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 had done some serious damage and wiped out the lodge that had been there and the rangers offices and visitors center are due for some serious reconstruction. After Forrest got some coffee at the mariana and we tried to keep Sprocket from chasing the crows and vultures we headed for the Christian Point hiking trail.

Coating ourselves in bug spray we bid Sprocket adieu at the car for a nice hike through the swamp. 25% DEET wasn’t enough to protect us from the mosquitos and horse flies and we gave up the hike after about a mile, although we did see some pretty bromeliads (or “airplants”). Back at the car we decided we’d seen enough of the Everglades and it was time to get out of Florida.

So we drove. And drove. All the way up Florida on I-95. We did take a short break in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, it was founded in 1565! We checked out the old fort (just missed the final tour) and walked around the old buildings. It was cute but very touristy. We finished out the day at a Sonny’s Barbeque near Brunswick, Georgia and stuffed ourselves before heading to bed.

Day 7: Artisia, New Mexico to the shores of the Pecos River (Crocket County, Texas)

This morning, bright and early, we left our cushy digs in the truck parking lot of a motel in Artisia, New Mexico in search of huevos rancheros. Artisia let us down and Carlsbad very nearly did. We finally found the “Pecos River Cafe” which seemed to be doing brisk prework business. Forrest had the huervos rancheros he’d been craving (“They’re a little different style, but still good.”) while I tried the eggs and green chili (I wish I would have gotten the cinnamon rolls that I spied on the way out the door). A half hour later we were pulling into Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It was early on a Monday morning so I ran Sprocket up and down the parking lot for a bit before settling him into his crate while we visited the caves. The weather was nice and cool and he had a brand new cow hoof so he didn’t seem too put out by our having an adventure without him.

The caverns were really pretty cool. Forrest had been there before so I think it was a little anticlimactic for him, but we both enjoyed poking around. We did both self-guided tours: the natural entrance and the big room. We took lots of pictures, some of which turned out and some of which didn’t…but over all they’re pretty good for cave pictures!

After our tours we returned to the parking lot where Sprocket got to do some more running around before we loaded up in the ol’ red rocket jeep for the drive to Texas. About the only things of note on the drive from Carlbad to Fort Stockton was the house with all the old tractors lined up (Andrew would be so proud), my first oil derrick sighting (followed by many more), and a vista that just never changed. In Fort Stockton we were hoping for some good steaks or BBQ and perhaps a cute and historic downtown…we found none of these. In fact, we found some subpar Mexican food and bought some ill advised two-for-one Blizzards at DQ (“I was sucked in by the marketing!”). We gladly hit the road east away from Fort Stockton (if you’re ever on I-10…don’t stop).

We hopped off the road again just north of Sheffield (which proudly lists their soldiers serving under “The Commander in Chief: George W. Bush”…obviously things don’t change too quickly in Sheffield. We were hoping to be able to check out (and perhaps camp at) Fort Lancaster State Historic Park. We were foiled by a gate that a McRancher could be proud of. So, I write this at our campsite (to be posted at the next wifi) in a wash on private property off some county road off of Texas Route 290. Got to run…need to keep Sprocket away from the deer carcass on the other side of the wash…

Day 4: Moab, Utah

Today, Forrest and I (and Sprocket) drove up towards the La Sal Mountains. Forrest really likes it up there where the red rocks meets the pines from the mountains and I must say I concur! It’s gorgeous. Rather than taking the mountain loop road all the way to Castle Valley, we cut off on Sand Flats Road. We checked out Castle Valley Overlook (which is incredible!) and popped out in Sand Flats Recreation area. Sprocket had a blast getting out of the car at each stop and sniff, sniff, sniffing his way around!

Back in town, Forrest indulged me in heading out to Spanish Valley Vineyards where I tried their assortment of wines (Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, cherry wine, Cab Sav, and a Riesling dessert wine). I loved the Chardonnay and I know Mom (Suzan) would too. Sprocket didn’t mind the detour too much, he loved hanging out the open windows and greeting everyone who drove up.

We relaxed a bit before heading out to hike Hidden Valley with Danette, Robin, robin’s friend Mckinley, and a friend of Danette’s. Sprocket was such a trooper! He hauled himself up that hill with no problem and ran all over the place. When Sprocket started to seem pretty tired Forrest and Robin hung back with him while the rest of us hiked all the way up the valley and then Mckinley and I ran all the way back to the hill (and my knee didn’t hurt at all!!). The valley is absolutely gorgeous and sometimes it’s so hard to believe that you’re right above town. Sprocket was bomber going back down the hill although I was a little worried that he wasn’t going to be able to stop sometimes. He’s currently crashed at our feet while we’re writing this.

Day 3: Moab, Utah

First order of business on Thursday was to reorganize our supplies for the trip, because we’d moved up our departure date the “things to go” just went rather than being carefully packed away. The Cherokee and motorcycle both got baths and Sprocket got to run around the yard and play in the hose.

After we’d finished up with our road “chores,” we loaded the bike back on the Cherokee and headed into town for a bit. Forrest went to visit some friends at Moab Tour Company (where he used to give Hummer tours) while I hung out in Back of Beyond Books (pretty much one of my favorite bookstores ever) before we all headed up to Slickrock. Forrest rode his bike around the Slickrock trail while Sprocket and I walked the practice route. Sprocket had a blast but that up and down the rock in the warm weather just tuckered him out. He got back to the jeep and crawled right under it and wouldn’t move. I had to give him his water under there!

Afterwards, we made a quick pit stop at the grocery store and took our lunches over to a park where Sprocket played in the fountain. We came back to Danette’s and then went out to hike on Steelbender. We had to drag Sprocket out from his kennel but he came. He had a blast splashing around in Mill Creek—I think he decided it was worth getting up for. He got to walk back to the car with Danette though because Forrest, Robin, and I decided to take a “scrambling” route over a fin of rock. It was really fun, I love how there are so many opportunities to do that here!

We finished up the day with dinner at Pasta Jay’s in town—the pasta was pretty darn good. Back at the house, we all headed for bed pretty quickly, it had been a busy day!

Mt. Hood Recon

On Saturday Forrest, Ezra and I and headed up to Timberline for a bit of research for our Mt. Hood climb and a conditioning hike. We climbed from Timberline lodge (elevation 5,924 ft) to the top of the Palmer Ski Lift (elevation 8,540 ft). We covered the mile and a half of hiking in a little over three hours and slid down the ski slopes in about twenty minutes!

I was pretty happy with my fitness level headed up the hill but I need to do some hiking up “Cell Tower Hill” in Philomath with some weight to make sure I’m ready for the summit push next month!

Today we took Sprocket on a little ride up into the woods. He got to run all over the place and smell all sorts of wonderful smells. We also shot the .22 pistol a couple of times and he didn’t seem to mind at all. He’s loving his life!

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Lolo Pass & Hood River

We headed north for a weekend to hang out with Jason & Anna up in Hood River (and also to play in the snow and drink some yummy beer!). We stopped briefly in Sandy and had what were some pretty disappointing doughnuts before heading up the area where Jason’s been building some mountain bike trails for IMBA.

We helped out with the trail building for about a half hour or so before setting off on our next adventure–crossing Lolo Pass. The snow was perfect for this adventure! I’d never been snow wheeling before and I had a blast–well, I think seeing the bear tracks was actually my favorite part but it all works. It was a pretty nice day, considering it was November, and Mt. Hood even came out of the clouds for a couple minutes! On our way out towards Hood River we made a brief detour up to Lost Lake it was just us and a couple of snowmobiles and lots and lots of snow.

Back down in Hood River we went to a British style pub that advertised having “hundreds of beers.” Most were beers we’d had in bottles and we settled on an IPA of some sort to share. Then we headed down the Full Sail to have a couple pints–the Vesuvius IPA and Wassail. Vesuvius got a big thumbs down but Wassail was a good as ever.

After that we met up with Jason and Anna at the condo they’re subletting until the purchase of their house is final. After a little bit of relaxation we attempted to go to Double Mountain Brewing for dinner but it was packed so we headed up the hill for some sushi! (Forrest was a good sport all around.) After a lovely dinner we headed back down to Double Mountain for pints (Forrest and I consumed a Fa la la la la and the IRA…alll yummmmmyyyyy).

The next day on our way home we checked out the salmon hatchery and sturgeon viewing area near Bonneville Dam. We also checked out the Oregon side of the Bonneville Dam visitors center. After that we headed to Eagle Creek to finally see all the waterfalls we’d heard about. I got more than a little distracted though by the salmon running upstream. I pretty much stood on the side of the creek in awe, completely oblivious to the smell of rotting fish.

After a bit, we finally decided to get hiking. We didn’t go too far, just the 2.1 miles up to Punchbowl Falls. It was beautiful though and definitely somewhere worth coming back to sometime.

On the way home we learned a couple of things: The North Face does not sell technical climbing equipment or shoes, the Woodburn Outlets have Christmas style traffic at 4pm on a Sunday in November, and that I can lead Forrest right to a place but if I even almost over shoot the destination it doesn’t count.

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Wine-ing with Stacia

Stacia came up to visit from California and I did my best to show her a good time here in Oregon while still getting some work done. True to “The Twin’s” form this involved sampling alcohol from the moment she landed at PDX Monday afternoon. We sampled beer at Lucky Labrador Brewing Co. and caught up on life. Back at home we drank some wine (Airlie 7 and Cardwell Hill Cellars pinot gris) and it didn’t take us long to decide that wine tasting was out Tuesday activity.

Stacia insisted that we go to Airlie so she could taste all their wines (she had a minor obsession with 7…a perhaps justified one but an obsession nevertheless). We took the back way through Wren and tried to make a stop at Cardwell Hill but they weren’t open. I decided to stop and check out Fort Hoskins because I was tired of Forrest saying it was dumb and refusing to check it out (he was right). I ended up being glad we went back to Airlie because the owner was there–I think it’s always more fun to talk to the owner than someone they’ve hired to pour wine. Stacia bought two bottles of 7 and promised to beg Trader Joes in LA to stock their wine again.

After that we went to Emerson where I caved and bought a bottle of their estate pinot noir “Avelena.” From there we tried to visit Illahee which was closed and still kind of under construction, then tried to visit Cherry Hill, and one other winery (Dancing Oaks?) that seems to no longer be in operation (which we found out after we drove into someone’s driveway).

We were finally successful with Van Duzer Vinyards. I kind of liked the crazy woman who served us our wine while Stacia hated her. (The $10 tasting fee may have had something to do with that.) The winery itself was a little over the top but their pinot noir was fantastic and it was really fun to taste their port and dessert wine (firsts for both of us). Then we hit up Left Coast Cellars where I was underwhelmed with both the wine and the feel of the place–Stacia loved it.

We probably should have headed back to Philomath at that point but we were having too much fun so we headed up Eola Hills Road and found Bethel Heights Vineyard. They had wonderful wines, the woman who poured for us was awesome, and the tasting room was adorable. Again, we begged off on “just one more” so we wound up the day with a visit to Cristom Vineyards. It was sooo much fun, I love visiting wineries!

(Other wineries I’ve tried in the Valley include Lumos Wine, Pheasant Court Winery, Veridian Wines, and the previously mentioned Cardwell Hill.)

Wednesday we headed up Santiam Pass to do a little hike. It turned into a fun adventure on Forest Service roads with a little 1 mile hike the summit of Jumpoff Joe Mountain. Nothing strenuous (450 feet? elevation gain) but fun anyway. We stopped at Oregon Trail Brewery to buy Forrest a growler of the Wit–it just so happened to be 9/23 and I thought I’d bring him a treat. Forrest, Stacia, and I went put-put golfing after dinner and then came back home and drank some beer for a chill end of the day.

It was a quick visit but it was so so fun!!

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Day 7-Lassen National Park

We got up bright and early and explored around our campsite a little more…we both managed to get stung by yellow jackets on a bridge…so we hit the road.

After a nice coffee break in Greenville we were headed for Lassen Volcanic National Park. After a perhaps misguided summit of Mt. Lassen we abandoned plans to hike Bumpass Hell (something I kind of regret) and headed north out of the park.

After a yummy hamburger in Old Station we made a pit stop at Subway Cave, a lava tube. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with the Ape Caves but it was fun all the same. A bit down the road we stopped and stretched at Bridge campground at Hat Creek. Hat Creek was deep and GORGEOUS–I almost went swimming.

We pushed on a little further, trying to see the falls at McArthur-Burney State Park but deciding that the $9 day use fee was a little steep passed by and made a stop at Lake Britton. We headed north a bit more and camped southeast of Bartle.

Day 6: ~153 miles

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.

Mt. Washington

Sunday, Forrest, Ezra, Thomas, and I headed up the slopes of Mt. Washington (7,794 ft). We left Philomath about 6:30 in the morning and even I chowed down on a Egg McMuffin as we headed east. We arrived at the trail head about 8:30 and were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes.

We followed the Pacific Crest Trail south for about three miles to get to the climber’s trail–Forrest and I hiked this in a speedy 40 minutes! After that the going got slower for me as my cruise focus has dampened my exercise drive recently. Still, all things considered we made decent time to the summit block. From the base of the block to the summit was so much fun! There wasn’t anything overly technical but there was a lot of climbing and scrambling to be had.

We ate lunch at the top swarmed by flies instead of mosquitoes but the view certainly was something. To the north we could see Three Fingered Jack and Mt. Jefferson, to the south/south-east there’s the Three Sisters, and several others (I need to go over my Oregon peak picking some more with Forrest…).

The climb down was something as well. Fortunately we’d brought rope because we’d read about a sketchy area for down-climbing. Sketchy was right! We all basically lowered ourselves down the rope hand over hand while walking our feet along the nearly sheer crack we’d climbed up earlier–it was exhilarating to say the least!

From there Forrest and Thomas took off down the scree slope while Ezra and I chose the trail. We chose wrong. It was long and hot heading down across the ridge and things didn’t get much better once we reached the trees. Forrest and Thomas beat us by a good forty minutes and went swimming in Big Lake while we were still slogging down the PCT being eaten the whole way.

All in all, it was a good climb and gave me inspiration to start running again (and not only running, but running hills and running then repeatedly). Too bad it’ll all come to a halt when I get on a boat in six days…

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.